By SHERWIN DE VERA
BAGUIO CITY — Farmers in Cagayan Valley called Senator Cynthia Villar “insensitive” for labelling reports that palay (unmilled rice) prices are now down to P8-10.00 as “fake news.”
“She (Villar) is the one spreading fake news. She promised assistance and development from the Rice Tariffication Law (RTL), but it has only brought suffering to farmers across the country,” said Isabelo Adviento in Ilocano.
According to him, by trivializing the low price of palay, the senator “showed she has no care for farmers.”
Adviento said the senator is accountable for her significant role in passing the RTL, a law that he claimed “indirectly favors real estate developers” like the Villars.
“A businesswoman like her who profit from converting farmlands to residential and commercial areas cannot comprehend the extent of our loss because of RTL,” he added.
She also asked if there are individuals in the audience that experienced selling their palay for the same amount, to which the farmers replied affirmatively. The senator then added: “Kasi kung meron paglabas ko ng stage na ito ay bibilhin ko na (If there are, I’ll buy it after I get down the stage.)”
Danggayan ti Mannalon ti Isabela (Dagami) spokesperson Renato Gameng said the amount they can save from the loan provided by the government from the RCEF is nothing compared to their loss. Dagami is the provincial affiliate of the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (Peasant Movement of the Philippines).
“We save about P4,500 by accessing the P15,000 government loan assistance than getting it from usurers, but with the implementation of RTL, a single farmer is losing an average of P55,000 for this cropping season,” he said.
Based on their monitoring, palay prices dropped from P22.00 per kilo in September last year to P11.00 in September 2019. At P11.00 per kilo, Gameng their gross sale for their harvest is way below the P60,000 per hectare expenses.
“We earned nothing for six months. We don’t even know where to get the cash to buy our basic needs like food. There are also the amortization and rent to our landlords that ranges from P11,550 to P13,750,” he said.
Subsidies, not loans
Adviento and Gameng stressed that farmers need grants and cash assistance, not loans, since many are buried in debts.
“Loans are band-aid solutions. It cannot resolve the problems brought by the RTL to the life and livelihood of farmers,” said Adviento.
They said the P400 million loan granted to the provincial government of Isabela through an agreement with the Development Bank of the Philippines and Department of Agriculture, including the P17 million allotted by the province, benefits a handful of farmers.
“The amount would only benefit 4,170 farmers cultivating a hectare of land or less. This will only cover about 143,000 hectares of the rice lands in Isabela,” explained Gameng.
In the last five years, the annual average of area planted with palay in the province is 281,568 hectares, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority.
“Let us not lose sight of the issue. Loans and other benefits promised by Villar and the Duterte government are all band-aid solutions. These will not resolve the problems that arose from the liberalization of agriculture,” said Adviento.
He said the government should instead immediately implement the Agriculture Special Safeguard Measures and suspend the RTL while working for its repeal. For a long-term solution, Adviento advised the implementation of genuine agrarian reform and leaving the World Trade Organization. # nordis.net / with reports from Jhames Paredes